Thousands of flat-dwellers have been ‘condemned to lives of stress and fear’ over ministers’ failure to replace flammable cladding on high-rises, a damning report says.
After the 2017 Grenfell Tower tragedy in which 72 people died, the Government pledged safe alternatives to dangerous cladding would be provided on all multi-storey buildings by June.
But little over a third – 155 out of 455 – of high-rises with similar flammable cladding to Grenfell have had it replaced to date, the Commons public accounts committee (PAC) said.
After the 2017 Grenfell Tower tragedy in which 72 people died, the Government pledged safe alternatives to dangerous cladding would be provided on all multi-storey buildings by June (file photo)
Members said progress has been ‘unacceptably slow’ and leaseholders have been the victims of a ‘system-wide failure’, MPs said in the report.
Now the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG), which accepts the report’s conclusion, has set a new target for remaining work to be completed by the end of next year.
Residents of tower blocks still fitted with flammable cladding have reported worsening mental health due to safety fears.
They have also complained about the high costs of funding interim measures such as ‘waking watches’ – constant patrols to monitor buildings for signs of fire – as they wait for cladding to be replaced.
Many said they are now ‘trapped’ by the situation, unable to sell flats that have depreciated massively in value.
Committee chairman Meg Hillier said: ‘The [MHCLG] set its own target to remove cladding and yet has failed to achieve even a third of the work it set out to deliver. Thousands of people have been condemned to lives of stress and fear in unsaleable homes with life-changing bills – for the works and for the fire-watch that is necessary to allow them to sleep at night until it is done.
‘The Government has repeatedly made what turn out to be pie-in-the-sky promises and then failed to plan, resource or deliver.’ She added: ‘The deadly legacy of a shoddy buildings regulation system has been devastating for the victims and survivors of Grenfell but is leaving a long trail of misery and uncertainty for those whose lives are in limbo. The Government must step up and show that it will put a stop to the bickering over who is responsible, who’s going to pay for the remediation – and just put this right.’
Little over a third – 155 out of 455 – of high-rises with similar flammable cladding to Grenfell have had it replaced to date (file photo)
The MHCLG made £600 million available to fund the replacement of aluminium composite material cladding on buildings above 18 metres, but by April this year it had only paid out £134 million.
In March, it announced a further £1 billion would be made available to fund the replacement of other forms of dangerous cladding on high-rise buildings but estimates suggest this would meet only around a third of the total costs.
MPs said the housing ministry has no plans to support residents or social landlords to meet the costs of replacing dangerous cladding in buildings below 18 metres. The committee said the ministry also has no plans to cover the costs of waking watches or other serious defects and shortcomings uncovered by post-Grenfell inspections.
A PAC spokesman said: ‘While the [ministry] is clear that building owners are responsible for the safety of their buildings, it is the [ministry] which is responsible for the building regulation system, which it accepts has been not fit for purpose for many years.
‘These failings have left a legacy of problems for the [ministry] to address which extend beyond the immediate need to remove dangerous cladding.’